Thursday, 20 October 2016

Styrofoam incubator - Avoid Power-Outage Deaths

Where would I purchase one of those computer backup batteries for my small Styrofoam incubator? 

Do they work well? For how long will they run a brooder? 



The electric current can go out for many reasons, such as lightning storms, hot weather and power outages from accidents or fallen trees. There is even talk that this year, during the hot months, the electric companies are going to do perform temporary controlled blackouts in several cities throughout the United States without warning. This can kill eggs and very young baby birds in incubators and brooders!

I use a computer backup battery, which can be purchased at almost any computer-type electronic store or large office supply store, such as Best Buy, Circuit City, Good Guys, Office Max or Office Depot. These stores usually carry backup batteries in several different sizes and prices. The more powerful the batteries are and the longer they run, the more money they cost. You can also buy them from online stores like MacMall and even direct from the company. Their 

I have simple batteries, which are smaller and cost under $150 each, connected to a few of my brooders and incubators. These little power units have run my brooders for more than four hours when the power failed, and I must say they kept the temperature just right, and the brooder and incubator were not harmed in any way. The batteries also have an alarm that beeps when the power goes out. This has awakened and alerted us that the power was out. The unit continues to beep as long as it works without electricity. I found these units to be very reliable tools for raising birds. As soon as the power comes back on, the unit changes back to the regular electric current, and starts to recharge the internal battery system. My first unit is still running, and it is more than four years old. If I leave my home for a few hours, I know that all the babies are safe if the power goes out, because those backup batteries turn on automatically and keep the chicks warm until I get home.

Coaxing Pairs To Breed
I breed sun, peach-fronted and green-cheeked conures. Recently, I purchased a pair of brown-throated conures and a pair of Senegal parrots. Neither of these new pairs will enter their nest boxes. It has been a month since their acquisition, but nothing seems to be happening. I am mostly interested in the brown throats, because it is very difficult to find information on them. The Senegals and brown throats came with the same box they nested in before. The brown throats had a very small box. I gave them a new box, grandfather clock style. They do not even perch on the entrance at night, whereas the Senegals perch on the entrance hole and the male peers into it periodically. The male Senegal has a bare head down to the neck. The hen is feather picking him a lot. He bends and enjoys her mutilation. There is no sign of breeding from those two, but they are doing plenty of picking. The hen has one perch chewed almost to kindling. As for the brown throats (that I've become quite fond of), they do not seem to chew or look at the box at all. I read that they excavate termite mounds for their nest in the wild and that it is recommended to use cork inside the box for their chewing pleasure, but I think this is bizarre. Any suggestions to entice these two pairs to do some breeding would be appreciated.

First of all, you have not had the pairs long enough for them to be ready to nest. Even though some birds will go to nest immediately after a move, many need to settle in and wait a few months or longer. With your brown-throated conures, I would do things a bit differently than you have. If, indeed, they are a true breeding pair, I would not change the nest box provided with them. I would set the birds up with what they are accustomed to. You did not give me the dimensions of the nest boxes, but what you think is too small may be just perfect for that pair. Many of my bigger conures, such as Patagonian, blue-crowned and cherry-headed conures, will only nest in small cockatiel nest boxes. I even saw a pair of nandays producing babies in a nest box not much bigger than a parakeet nest box. Just think, in the wild they would use small quarters, because that would be all they could find; not these big "apartment" sized holes. I do not use grandfather clock style boxes for any of my smaller conures. I have found them to be too large for the pairs. My pairs prefer smaller boxes. And, I do use cork inside some of my conure nest boxes. The birds really seem to enjoy chewing it up, and, it keeps them busy. So, if your pair of conures do not nest in the next few months, why not try their original box and see if they like that better?

As for the Senegal parrots, they can be a bit trickier to get to nest. Many Senegal parrots are really seasonal and will only breed late winter into spring. Many Senegal parrots also need more time to adjust to their new surroundings, whereas conures seem to settle in much more quickly. Some Senegal parrots will not even use their nest box off-season.

As for the hen's mutilation of the male, I have seen this at times. If it becomes too much, you can separate the pair for a month or two and then return them together in hope that they will just stop this bad habit. Sometimes this works. But it sounds like the male is not bothered by her over-grooming him. Sometimes the feather follicles can become so damaged that the feathers may never grow back. This does not hurt the bird at all, it just looks different. It sounds like the pair likes one another. So with this pair, I think they need much more time before you worry about them nesting. See what happens with them in winter or spring, and let them get used to their new home.

Aviary Maintenance

aviary cage
Keeping your aviary clean of debris and food-refuse is incredibly important to a successful aviary. It is far easier to do it regularly rather than try to play catch-up. For example, when was the last time you checked the fasteners on your nest boxes? When most parrots see a shiny wire, bolt head or screw, they begin to pick at it, twisting and chewing away the surrounding wood. I have seen African greys unfasten rather impressive bolts that have washers and nuts. You need to check all your nest boxes to ensure that the wood or fastener isn't going to give way soon. In regards to nest boxes, your best breeders are usually the best wood chewers as well. I know a breeder who lost a cockatoo hen that made him more than $10,000 a year from her unbelievable production. She chewed through the nest box, and he never noticed the growing hole, until his wonderful hen was sitting in a tree. He never caught her.

Nest Box/Cage Maintenance

Check the nest boxes by running your hand over the outsides and looking for holes inside and out. Remember, a small hole on the outside might indicate that a large amount of wood has been eaten on the inside, and the bird is ready to burst through. So, don't ignore the small holes. If there is a hole all the way through the wood, it is best to replace the nest box. Also, change the bedding if you haven't done so already.

Double-check your nest box-to-cage connections as well. Put some weight on them, because a strong wind might stress the connections. If you use tie strips, replace them. Tie strips break down if they are exposed to ultraviolet sunlight. Even though those tie strips might look fine now, given a month in the summer sun, they could give out.

Another rarely considered point of possible escape is from the use of J-clips. Some J-clips can rust or corrode even on cages that are less than 10 years old. Inspect each cage and pull on the cage wire, checking to see if the J-clips give or whether they are still good. If I notice any stress or rust on the clips, I fasten another clip right beside the worn clip. We lost one of our favorite babies that squeezed between the wire where two J-clips had rusted out. After it escaped, it took us several days to figure out how it had gotten out of the cage. The wire had formed itself back together, giving the appearance of structural integrity. That is why I strongly recommend physically pulling on the wire connections in separate directions so that you can see if the wire pulls apart.

Check your perches. If perches are chewed significantly and are unstable, birds will not breed. Obtain new perches and make sure they are affixed to the side tightly. If your birds quickly chew through 2- by 4-inch perches, consider the 2- by 6-inch size. I prefer fir; however, whatever you use, don't use treated wood. Go to the lumberyard and buy fresh. Don't pick up tree branches or lumber that you don't know the origins of.

I find many people just pile their old cages and refuse within the aviary. Throw old goods away. If you have cages you aren't going to use, then stack them neatly and as far away from your birds as possible. Piles of cages, with grass and weeds growing in them, make ideal residences for snakes. Get them away from your birds. If you have old pans or dishes, turn them over so they don't accumulate water. Otherwise, the stagnant water becomes a nesting ground for mosquitoes.

Food And Debris

Food or feces pile-ups should be turned over with a spade, covered up or removed. They attract disease-carrying rodents, flies and vermin. If you live in the city, allowing dung to build up will bring the health department down on you; likewise if you are in the country, it will invite predators.

Aviary maintenance isn't fun, and it is one of those things that quickly falls by the wayside when we get busy. But it is best to keep up with it, because the cost of letting your aviary go is lost birds.

The Laughing Dove

Laughing dove facts

The laughing dove (Streptopelia senegalensis), commonly called the palm or Senegal dove, is common in aviaries throughout the United States and Canada. It shares a kinship with the common domestic ringneck dove (S. capicola) and many other similar doves.

laughing dove facts

The laughing dove is primarily a bird of both arid regions and woodlands in its native Africa. It has adapted well to living with humans and is abundant around farms, villages and cities. Laughing doves can be seen feeding alongside their larger cousins, feral rock pigeons (Columba livia). This species is found throughout Africa and the Middle East and is introduced and thriving in western Australia.

This beautiful dove is a bit smaller than a common domestic ringnecked dove. It differs from most of the other Streptopelia species because it lacks the black half-ring around its neck. Instead of a half-ring, the laughing dove has a patch of specialized plumage on the breast. The tiny jewel-like, bifurcated feathers have glossy rust-red tips and black centers. This dove looks as if it is wearing a jeweled necklace that vanishes and reappears in the sunlight. Both sexes have this exquisite "necklace."

The adult male has a pinkish head and neck, which shades to a pale gray on the back and upper tail coverts. The wings are a very rich reddish chestnut brown. The primary flights are burnt umber, the tail is gray with black and some white halves on the feathers. The belly is gray, which shades to nearly pure white on the undertail coverts. The adult female is colored very much like the adult male. Sexes are difficult to visually distinguish, although the males tend to be a bit larger and brighter. The laughing dove is the smallest member of the genus Streptopelia in Africa and, undoubtedly, the most handsome.

laughing dove breeding

The bill in both sexes is black. The eyes are dark umber or black. The feet are a deep reddish-purple. Natural mutations are common in this species. Pied laughing doves are regularly seen. Pied birds can have a few white feathers around the head and neck or be nearly 50 percent white. No two pieds are alike. I have a male laughing dove that is nearly 75 percent white. Others are mostly 20 percent white. Pied laughing doves are especially attractive if the white feathers are scattered over the bird's entire body. The normal or wild-type color is, however, dominant. I suspect that birds that were pecked or lose feathers unnaturally when young are more susceptible to having feathers regrow white. This condition is common in other species of doves and even exists in domestic pigeons.

The most distinguishing characteristic of this species is the voice. Watch any nature show about Africa, and the soft, melodious cooing is that of the laughing dove. The coo is pitched and uttered in phrases of four to eight notes, each enduring about a second. The call is difficult to describe. It is very soft, almost has a nasal quality and is pleasant to the human ear. The "laugh" is uttered after mating. Loud wing clapping often occurs as the bird flies.

laughing dove breeding

In the wild, this dove eats a variety of seeds, grains and small insects, as well as fruits. In captivity, laughing doves thrive on a high quality finch mix. I also like to provide some soft food as well. Occasionally, the birds dine on steamed rice and vegetables, raw grated carrots and broccoli.

Laughing dove breeding 

Laughing doves breed well under most conditions. They are monogamous, pairing for life. The courtship is similar to other species in this genus, particularly to the European turtle dove (S. turtur). The normal clutch is two creamy-white eggs. Laying generally occurs in the morning, and incubation begins when the first egg is laid. Both parents incubate and are very attentive. Hatching occurs on the 13th or 14th day of incubation. The newly hatched squabs have nearly black skin covered with yellow down. The squabs grow quickly on "pigeon milk," a thick yellowish substance made in the crops of both parents. The young fledge soon after the 12th or 13th day after hatching. The parents still continue to feed them for an additional three or four days. 

laughing dove breeding

Housing laughing doves is relatively easy. Provide a draft-free, dry shelter with lots of sunshine, and the doves will do well. They can be acclimated to stay outdoors all year round. A well-insulated aviary will do just fine. Laughing doves can tolerate below-freezing temperatures for short periods of time. Because this species is from Africa, it withstands high temperatures when shade is provided. They are as hardy as domestic ringnecked doves.

This species is hardy, affordable and available from local breeders. The laughing dove is a nonaggressive species and will not harm other small avian species. The genus Streptopelia is an excellent choice for the novice as well as the seasoned dove collector.

Several years ago, a subspecies of smaller laughing doves became available. They are exactly like their counterparts, only nearly one-third smaller. The small birds are harder to find and a bit brighter than their larger kin. I bought several pairs that were recent imports. They were much redder than my current stock. Laughing doves are one of my favorites in the Streptopelia genus.

laughing dove

Unmated laughing doves should not be kept with domestic ringnecked doves or doves belonging to the genus Streptopelia. They will readily interbreed with them. Hybrids are usually infertile, although in some instances, males may be fertile. I personally do not recommend hybrid breeding.